WCW Monday Nitro – May 20, 1996

WCW Monday Nitro – May 20, 1996
Monroe, LA

Commentators: Eric Bischoff and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

Bischoff and Heenan hype Slamboree from last night. Really now? It sucked. Steve “Mongo” McMichael is not announcing tonight Bischoff says because he and his number one draft pick, Kevin Greene, are in serious training for Ric Flair and Arn Anderson. Bischoff circles back to Slamboree where Flair challenged Mongo to a tag-team match versus himself and AA. Mongo then announced/introduced Greene as his partner. So Earth-shattering, I tell you. Bischoff says the match is official as of this morning and will happen in Baltimore at The Great American Bash. Heenan, for lack of a better adjective, thinks Greene and Mongo are mincemeat come The GAB.

Fire and Ice [Scott Norton & Ice Train] vs. The Steiner Brothers [Rick & Scott]

Result/Analysis: Double Count-Out (5:26). This is a return match of sorts as these teams wrestled on April 29, three weeks prior. That bout was a quick and decisive Steiner’s win. Here, having worked out the kinks, the action is impactful with Fire and Ice hanging with The Steiner’s, the seasoned vets. Scott was juicing by this point and noticeably carrying the load. His suplexes, the vast variety of them, were firmly executed. Ice Train was superior to “Flash” Norton in Fire and Ice but it’s hard to take them seriously as heels with such blinding ring attire. Five minutes in, after some good wrestling – – – 70% Steiner-dominated – – – Ice Train pairs off with Rick while Norton fights with Scott. All four men wind up outside the ring and the 10 count is on. Ice Train powerslams Rick. Norton hits a shoulderbreaker on Scott. Both teams are counted out. This rivalry is just getting started.
Rating: **1/2

Eddie Guerrero vs. “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair (w/ Elizabeth and Woman)

Result/Analysis: Flair via pinfall (16:58 shown) with assistance from Woman as Guerrero was locked up in the figure-four. Fantastic match. Eddie Guerrero proves here, on May 20, 1996, he had the goods and could wrestle Flair, the very best, for a near 20 minutes and go blow-for-blow, move-for-move and craft a match that drips with psychology and storytelling. WCW clearly had figured out Guerrero was a budding star. How they later blew it with him is one of their colossal blunders and undoings for mere existence. It’s a coming out party for Guerrero here and Flair is so great, an underrated part of his legend, in that he has Guerrero carry him to something that’s fantastic. They trade stiff chops in the beginning stages as Flair is frustrated by Guerrero’s grit and tenacity so he takes a powder and gets into a shoving match with referee Randy Anderson. Woman shrieking over every Flair setback is hilarious. From there it’s counter wrestling and a series of near falls for Guerrero as his underdog upset bid gains traction. Guerrero gets the figure-four on Flair but that’s short lived. Flair begins working the knee of Guerrero and Guerrero sells for the better good but more so on his own offensive moves that put his knee in a tender position. Brilliant. Guerrero debuts the frog splash here which would have won him the match if not for landing on it improperly and he can’t cover. Flair slaps on the figure-four and you think Guerrero will tap. But no, Flair resorts to cheat tactics and uses Woman for leverage. That pins Guerrero’s shoulders to the mat and Flair overcomes. Guerrero is kept strong in defeat but Flair wins. That is how it’s done!!!
Rating: **** (a rare freebie on TV that’s pushing the bar toward that rarified territory)

After the match, next to his private VIP lounge set-up Flair cuts a victory promo with Okerlund as the MC. Naitch refutes that “Macho Man” Randy Savage is anywhere close to the building let alone inside of it and he’ll be enjoying another night with the girls. As for Kevin Greene, well he made the cardinal mistake of entering North Carolina without asking permission (Greene was now on the Carolina Panthers roster) and also thinks he can cross-train football with wrestling and it doesn’t work that way. Flair draws a comparison to himself cross-training the girls. Ha! Naitch is GOD!!!

Following a commercial break, Flair has assumed Mongo’s position at the broadcast table. The girls are there. The champagne is being poured. The catering has been transferred. And Heenan, yeah, he’s got the candelabra. Flair makes it a point that Ted Turner wants him there. Well this ought to entertain. For now, it’s back to the ring.

WCW World Tag-Team Championship:
The Faces of Fear [Meng & The Barbarian] vs. Sting & “The Total Package” Lex Luger (c)

Result/Analysis: Sting & Luger via pinfall (7:53 shown) when Luger pins The Barbarian after a Stinger splash from Sting from off the top rope. There’s something in the water in Monroe, Louisiana on this tonight because this is another high-quality match, with the Tag-Team Titles on the line to boot. Sting takes a sustained beating to follow up on his weakened state having competed against The Giant at Slamboree the night before. The Faces of Fear cut the ring in half and take turns pulverizing Sting. The highlights are a top rope belly-to-belly suplex by The Barbarian on Sting – supremely executed – and a diving double headbutt from adjacent top turnbuckles from Meng and The Barbarian. Luger had the referee tied up so Meng doesn’t get the three count but alas, there’s the hint of doubt on if Sting and Luger retain the straps. Luger eventually gets the hot tag and cleans house leading to the finish. All four guys were motivated to work a good match. It’s refreshing. Flair added levity to the commentary but mostly bragged about himself – that’s OK.
Rating: ***

Meanwhile, Savage is outside the building and Okerlund says he’s again banned from entering. Gene tells Macho there’s a meeting going on to discuss his future in WCW and the speculation is, Savage may not be allowed to even wrestle again. Macho barges at the door but he’s stopped by security and law enforcement. Flair and Heenan find it hysterical.

Blood Runs Cold: Glacier is coming. Big whoop!

Brad Armstrong vs. Diamond Dallas Page

Result/Analysis: DDP via pinfall (4:38 shown) following the diamond cutter. Page had won BattleBowl at Slamboree and with it became the “Lord of the Ring.” Winning that was to give DDP a World Heavyweight Title Match at The Great American Bash. Due to Page winning the battle royal in controversy, however, as he was thrown over the top rope and out of the ring early on in the match with both of his feet touching the floor, Okerlund breaks the news to DDP after his victory here that he will no longer receive the title shot after WCW’s executive committee looked at the video footage. Dumb. So much for DDP’s push. He wasn’t yet what he’d later on be as a wrestler and performer, but I swear WCW strung Page along on a string to adhere to his rags-to-riches journey. That, and in 1996, the thought of DDP being in any World Title match, let alone on a signature PPV, did seem desperate. Okerlund announces Luger will receive the title shot at The GAB instead. No re-match for Sting against The Giant? Lex did hold that ever prestigious TV Title so perhaps that qualified him? LOL. Armstrong was a credible wrestler to have in the ring with anyone yet still lose and be OK with it. Page had gotten better but he hadn’t refined even the diamond cutter yet. His side headlock, though, yeah, that was part of his repertoire. I wonder if Page wrestles anyone at The GAB. I can’t recall. At least WCW should have him face Konnan and beat him for the U.S. Title, no?
Rating: *1/2

WCW World Heavyweight Championship:
“The Enforcer” Arn Anderson (w/ “The Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan vs. The Giant (c) (w/ Jimmy Hart)

Result/Analysis: The Giant via pinfall (3:39) following a chokeslam. Glorified squash of “The Enforcer.” AA always did a job if it was right for business. This match felt like a time filler not a Main Event. The Giant is our champ so throw him out there to make quick work of someone that’s credible. It’s not a match that can be good so there’s no bother in trying. At The GAB, the World Title Match to have with DDP thrown out as the challenger was not Luger vs. The Giant or Sting vs. The Giant but both Luger and Sting vs. The Giant. A three-way dance, something not at all common even by 1996, made the most logical sense considering what transpired at Slamboree.

The Verdict: Strong Nitro off a poorly booked Slamboree. WCW had one noteworthy storyline heading into The GAB with The Horsemen challenging Mongo and Greene. I just mentioned what the World Title match should be. On this night, Flair and Guerrero produce a classic so check that match out for sure. Both tag-team matches are solid, too. Next week, an “Outsider” shows up …

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